Istanbul notes

Contra the United States, here it is the leaders who have the moustaches and the voters who do not. 

Nowhere have I seen more free toothpicks for offer, yet after days I still have not encountered a single Chinese restaurant.  Turkish food dominates the culinary landscape.

The bestsellers are mostly by Turkish authors, yet The Prince of Persia fills many a movie screen.

Orhan Pamuk: "To be traveling through the middle of a city as great, historic and forlorn as Istanbul, and yet to feel the freedom of the open sea — that is the thrill of a trip along the Bosphorus."

Turkey is the world's second leading producer of watermelons and the leading producer of cherries; you can see both in the streets.

Full of small villages, it's one of the best walking cities.  People are friendly and helpful to strangers.

According to Forbes, there are 35 billionaires in Istanbul.

The major sights underwhelm me, in part because they are so crowded with tourists and in part because the "real city" feels further removed from them historically and spiritually than say Cairo does from its classic mosques.  

Sultanahmet is the worst tourist ghetto I've seen in any major city, ever.  It is essential to stay in some other part of the city, any other part.  I'm far from the center in Topkapi (not near the palace of the same name) and happy with my choice.

I could imagine living here.  It offers many of the benefits of major European cities but at lower expense.  It is less exotic than I had expected, and that's taking into account the typical first-order illusion about the exoticism of distant foreign cities. 

Turkey is Europe's leading producer of televisions.  After the 2001 troubles, both the banks and the government are in good fiscal shape.  The Turkish lira has yielded strong returns for years.  The economy is well-diversified.

Oddly (or perhaps not), the city reminds me of a larger-scale Marseilles.

Three years ago, here is Alex on Istanbul.  I took a cab there, and then the ferry back.


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